-I will start off with the most obvious talking point, and that is the Supplemental Draft conducted league wide via conference call today. While James touched on a couple of this picks in his earlier piece, I wanted to list all 3 here with my thoughts. Although many fans think these picks don't mean much, there have been some pretty good finds in the later round of the MLS Draft in years past. For example, Sean Johnson was a #51 pick of the Fire, and I would say he has done well for himself so far. While some supplemental picks don't stick with their respective teams or take awhile to develop, the Fire could have something on their hands with this year's picks.
With the 30th pick, the Fire selected John Gallagher out of Penn State. He is listed as a 5'10" defender (left back). Penn State posted 7 shutouts last season, and Gallagher was a big part of that. He was also named as a first team All Big Ten member, so that isn't something to sneeze at.
It seems like most of Fire Nation really likes this pick so far, as do I. From what I have been able to gather, Gallagher sounds like a very flexible player at a variety of positions. It sounds like he can play pretty much any back line position, and can even help in the midfield. That is big for a Fire team still in need of back line depth. He looks to be very athletic, and I think he will be a quality addition to pre-season camp. The battle for back line spots should be pretty interesting at RB and especially for back up positions.
The Men in Red then selected goalkeeper James Belshaw with the 49th pick. Belshaw hails from Duke, and posted 21 shutouts in over 70 career appearances. Belshaw also played for Walsall FC in the FA Cup. That's some pretty good pedigree and experience for a young GK. I think we could have a nice find on our hands here.
While I don't really have much on his play/abilities, it's safe to say he should fall into the 3rd string goalkeeper role. And that's not a bad thing. He will get to learn behind two great goalkeepers, and won't cost a lot. This seems like it could be a Tornaghi type signing- young with plenty of time to improve. In a couple of years time, if Sean has moved to Europe, this would open up doors for a move up the depth chart.
Finally, with the 68th overall pick, the Fire took another defender in Caleb Konstanski. Caleb captained National Champion side Indiana University, appearing 70 times in his career for the Hoosiers. This is another solid pick for a Fire team badly in need of bodies on the back line. While some people were thinking the 3rd pick might be for a striker, I prefer a defensive pick. While it's possible for a late striker pick to help the Fire down the road, anyone available with this pick wouldn't have made an impact in my opinion. If we are going the striker route, it's going to be a trade or bigger signing. Again, I am excited to see what Konstanski can do. Captaining a National Champion team is quite the accolade to put on your MLS resume.
It's my hope all 3 players stick. I would be surprised if Gallagher and Belshaw don't. As long as they come in, work hard, and show some promise, I think the chances of them making the final roster will be pretty good. While Caleb seems to have the ability from what I have read, I don't think it's as certain as the other two. No matter how it shakes out, it would seem the Fire have done well to maximize their picks today as pre-season starts in Ave Maria.
-In another interesting note, Corben Bone has gone abroad for a training stint at Atletico Madrid. You may recall that Austin berry and Jalil Anibaba had similar stints recently and got the chance to work out with world class players like Radamel Falcao (yeah, this guy is kind of good).
This training stint is something important to mention for a couple of reasons. First, it's good experience for any player. Corben hasn't seen regular time during the season as we all know, and it's nice for him to get some good time in with such quality players. The Fire continue to strengthen and utilize their link with Atletico Madrid, and that should continue to pay increasing dividends.
The other thing that I took away from this is that the Fire still have him in their plans. You aren't going to send a player on a training stint like that if he doesn't figure into your plans. While I haven't met someone that doesn't like Corben, the only remaining questions is what role will he have in the Fire midfield in 2013. We all know it's stacked, but it would appear that Frank still realizes that Bone is alive. The question becomes what does he have to do to take that next step? It needs to happens soon for the sake of both parties.
-In the last bit of news, it sounds like Dilly Duka will most likely be traded by the end of this week. The Columbus Crew brass went on record saying they hoped they had a deal done by the end of the week. The 23 year old has made appearances for the U20 and U23 US National Teams. The Fire were heavily rumored on draft day to have a deal close to being done with the Crew. While it wouldn't end up culminating last Thursday, reports were that the deal was still on the table, with details being worked out.
Those details seem to be what price Duka would cost the Fire. The Crew seemed to be asking for too much initially, which would explain the delay. However, whatever has caused the falling out between player and club seems to be irreversible. Now that the end point is near, the Crew realize they will have to drop their asking price or pay some of Duka's contract to get a deal done. At this point it seems a pretty safe bet to me, as they need to unload the player and if they want to do that they will ave to make a concession or two. it's better for them to settle for a bit less rather than have a very ugly situation on their hands.
I don't know what the root of the issue is, but I expect Duka to be a Fire player by the end of the week. I haven't heard of any other clubs seriously linked with him. Whatever the situation, most sane humans don't want to live in Columbus or Ohio in general, so I can see why he wants to leave. Hopefully he can find a productive home in Chicago if Frank can end up culminating the deal.
The two questions I have here are:
1. Does Oduro still go over in the trade as rumored last week? He showed up for pre-season on day 1, and the rumored rift with Frank over playing time has seemed to die down (or at least has been kept more quiet of late). I still think Dom is useful off the bench (or maybe off the wing too since we also need depth there). It should be an interesting rest of the week with the self imposed deadline by the Crew.
2. Where does Duka fit if he does come? While there is no doubt he has talent and promise, our midfield is already over Fire code (sorry, bad pun intended). That's why I think someone goes across to Clumbus if this deal happens. We just don't have the room for everyone. If we do end up trading someone, at least we would be getting a bit younger in midfield.
That's all for now folks. I love MLS pre-season, and it will be really nice to have players get a full pres-season together. It will help players like Sherjill and Rolfe to build more cohesion, as well as the younger players and some of the other names not on the roster last pre-season. In addition, we should get a good idea of how a returning Steve Kinney can help us (hopefully). The 2013 season is just around the corner, and there should be some more news to report in terms of team moves before then.